Matthew’s gospel contains a rare interpretation of a parable. When Jesus taught in parables, he typically required the listeners to ponder the stories on their own. (See Mt. 13: 13-14, 34-35). Here, the parable of the weeds among the wheat seemingly shows the patience of the Master of the field, who did not want the workers to pull the weeds prematurely lest they uproot the good wheat, too. However, Jesus chose to emphasize the end of the growing process, when weeds are collected and burned and the harvest of good seed is gathered in.
As a farmer, I understand the image of collecting and burning weeds to prevent their seed from being established. We do this with thistles and other noxious plants, which might otherwise gain a foothold among the grass, clover, and alfalfa we grow for our cattle. If weeds become too extensive, the field must be tilled and replanted in order to eradicate the weed population. But of course, this also eradicates the good plants along with them. Even modern chemistry is not foolproof on selecting weeds from desirable plants.
Weeds remind us of the curse that befell our ancestor Adam. They exemplify sin that corrupts and harms. Sin is so pervasive in our world; even within ourselves. As the hospital for sinners, even the church is not safe from these effects. Saint Augustine saw the church as containing weeds and wheat, too. His greatest concern for new converts was not the influence of the pagan world, but the influence of bad Christians! So we can all read this parable and Jesus’ explanation of the final judgment with a little uneasiness. We know that without the grace of God, none of us can produce a harvest worthy of being gathered in by the Master. Moreover, we are all liable to being choked out by weeds. God forbid that we might be weeds rather than good plants; recall that the weeds were sown by the enemy, not by the Master!
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